Judge sides with state in long dispute over harbor dredging

Ohio environmental regulators have won another court ruling in a long-running dispute over dredging Cleveland's harbor.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must pay the past costs of dumping sediment from the Cuyahoga River into contaminant areas along Lake Erie. The Army Corps maintains shipping channels along the lake.

The decision also said that the Army Corps was wrong to delay the dredging while it argued with the state over where the sediment can be disposed and who should pay for it.

A spokesman for the Army Corps declined to comment on the ruling.

Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency says sediment from the river is loaded with PCBs, chemicals linked to cancer, and is a threat to water quality and fish. The Army Corps says the sediment is clean now and it would be much cheaper to dispose of it in the open waters of Lake Erie.

The Ohio EPA sued the federal agency in 2015 after it threatened to stop dredging until the state paid $1.4 million to put the material in a containment facility. A federal judge ordered the dredging to continue while the court case over who should pay continued.

Last year, dredging didn't begin until November in the Cleveland shipping channel, where cargo ships had been forced to lighten loads because of accumulated sediment. But this year, work on clearing the channel is already under way.

The state's environmental regulators have long sought to end dumping of dredged sediment throughout the lake.

Congress in 2015 approved a bill that included a stipulation preventing the Army Corps from dumping hazardous dredged material in the lake without meeting requirements set by the state.